25 Aug Woodland House, Prahran
So the reason I’ve been going out to eat at so many nice places lately is that A2 is moving out of Melbourne again. This all culminated with our final dinner together as a family, at least for a number of months. When mum suggested Woodland House for our last hurrah, I was quite happy to accept.
Thomas Woods and Hayden McFarland took over the kitchen once Jacques Reymond’s eponymous restaurant closed its doors, and they had rather big shoes to fill. They’ve done quite well for themselves too, earning a Good Food Guide chef’s hat in its first year of operation. Most of the staff stayed on, and service standards remain high.
Purple congo potato chips were presented together with the menu. The large, thin shards of potato were a spectacular sight to behold and a pleasure to eat. There are a few different dining options available, all involving selection of a certain number of courses. We opted for the full 10-course Woodland House Menu.
Throughout the night we were offered two types of bread, which had been baked in their wood-fired oven. There was a multigrain bread and a savoury buttery danish served with house churned butter with black sumac salt. The oven did exist during the Jacques Reymond days, but has since been relocated to the back garden near the carpark.
The first course arrived promptly. We were instructed to eat the foie gras with kiwi as a whole. It was a little burst of molten flavour in a deep-fried morsel. I wouldn’t have thought to pair kiwi with something like foie gras, but it acted well to balance with the foie gras’ richness. A good start to the meal.
Hidden beneath the leaf was a beautifully cooked rectangular portion of rainbow trout, which itself obscured cuttlefish, brassica and ink dressing at the base.
Next was the Spanner crab with oyster emulsion and panko crumb. It was full of rich flavours and highly enjoyed by all.
Presented rather prettily was the New Zealand storm clam with house made XO sauce, daikon and bacon broth. We had to be careful not to spill the beautiful smokey broth out of the shell. It was so good.
John Dory came alongside cavelo nero, bottarga and succulents. The plump and crunchy succulents went well with the fish, and to my surprise, the deep-fried cavelo nero tasted a little like nori.
This was followed by the Pacific oyster, with white soy, shiitake, and sea grapes. The oyster was absolutely bursting with flavour. It was pure and intense – an amazing way to appreciate the quality of the produce on offer. The sea grapes, which are sourced from South Korea because they’re unavailable here, provided an interesting crunch and a touch of sea saltiness to the dish.
Pretty as a picture, the unctuous pork cheek, salt-baked swede, wattleseed, sancho berry. The pork literally melted in our mouths and the sancho berry cut through the richness to make each bite a perfectly balanced pleasure.
The next course was a little more hands-on. The lamb tomahawk was seasoned with parilla and bamboo salt, and was presented together with warmed, rosemary scented towels to complete the gustatolfactory experience. I marveled at how the meat evenly cooked in all directions, and how tender and tasty it was. There was no hint of gaminess. It was the best grilled lamb I’ve ever had.
Truffle season is coming to an end, and there was an option to add shavings of the impressive specimen to the venison dish. The aroma of the truffles was so intense that when the samples were shown to other tables nearby, the fragrance wafted over and taunted us. We declined the offer of truffles, but the dish was still delicious. I haven’t had nasturtium stems before. It had an interesting peppery kick to it. The Jerusalem artichoke puree was amazingly smooth and provided a nice counterbalance to the black garlic sauce.
Our final savoury dish, the corn-fed and hay-aged duck arrived with spinach, black barley, broad bean, beetroot and tamarind. The skin was delightfully crisp and the meat was succulent.
The first of the two sweet courses was a chocolate based one. A sculpture-like chocolate tuile took centre stage. It was accompanied by chocolate ganache, a chocolate flan dome, salted caramel, mandarin, pepper berry gel and prickly pear. Despite the number of chocolate elements on the plate, it was a well balanced dessert.
Our final dish of the degustation was the celeriac financier with fermented pineapple syrup and macadamia milk sorbet. An element of crunch was brought to the dessert by the web of celeriac and scattering of peanuts. Interestingly I found the celeriac reminded me of the arrowroot chips I so love to munch on. It was a nice, delicate end to an amazing dinner.
Our degustation closed with hot drinks and petit fours of pine needle and yuzu jelly, madelines with lemon curd and an assortment of cocoa dusted nuts.
It would not be an overstatement to say we were all floored with the quality of the food and the service here. It was simply the best meal we’ve had in many years and words don’t seem to give the food justice. Refined simplicity, Woodland House is a shining example of contemporary fine dining at its best.
78 Williams Rd
Prahran, VIC, 3181
(03) 9525 2178